Pioneers, it seems to me, offer to our children one of the more interesting aspects of studying our nation’s history. The lives they lived were so much unlike ours. We live in a fast paced society filled with technology and complex relationships. Stories of ox and cart, of lofts where children slept at night, of wild beast adventures foster intrigue as today’s children begin to envision the experiences of the past while they learn.
In New York State our educational leaders require that every child be introduced to, and understand, the State’s past. Required practices for certified teachers in this area of education include:
- Create an understanding of the past by using primary and secondary sources
- Identify regions in NYS by describing characteristics of different regions
- Recognize relationships between geography, economics and history
In the course of preparing lesson plans, many teachers might consider Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic, “Little House on the Prairie”, as the quintessential resource for a project involving the lives of pioneers. Now, though, there is something just as real and just as exciting, but so much closer to home. “House with a Heart” is the true story of pioneers who migrated from New York’s Mohawk Valley to a small parcel of land in Cattaraugus County brought to market by the Holland Land Company in the early 1800’s. Michael, Sarah and their twelve children are typical of many who finally crossed over the Cattaraugus Creek to enter and live in the densely wooded highlands of Western New York – the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. In doing so, they began to populate an area previously home to the Seneca Nation (The Keepers of the Western Door) for many hundreds of prior years.
Elementary school teachers and home-schoolers should find this story of interest. It sets the stage for class discussion about the State’s varied terrain, about the spread of population, about the Native American nations who came before us, and about the importance of New York State in the country’s migration west.
After publishing this book in March, 2017, I have had the opportunity to visit several grade school classrooms in Western New York. When I describe the loft where Michael and Sarah’s boys slept, the children’s eyes open wide with amazement. When I tell the tale of Michael’s adventure to kill a rogue cougar, they are hungry for more.
“House with a Heart”, available on Amazon.com/books, doesn’t teach New York State’s history, but it sure does offer a fun and fascinating picture of the issues New York State’s early settlers faced on a regular basis.
Please help me get the word out. If you know any elementary school teachers and/or home-schoolers, I hope you pass this on to them. Anyone wishing to discuss this with me, should contact me on my Facebook page, Rick Iekel, Author.